In the election game, this shapeless mass is referred to as simply "The Others." But the tag can be misgiving, especially due to the sector's growth in recent years. In Lafayette Parish, where Republican registration has made record gains, there's been a healthy increase in independents. During the most recent statewide elections last year, the number of registered independents skyrocketed to 32,000, with 6,600 casting votes.
That's a huge jump from less than a decade ago. According to post-election statistics from the Secretary of State's Office, roughly 453 independent voters were registered in Lafayette Parish in 1998, and only 17 voted.
While independents in Louisiana aren't yet closing the gap with the 1.5 million registered Democrats, they have only 83,500 fewer members than the Republican Party. Regardless of their standing, independents are rarely tapped for judicial appointments in the state or asked for input by the administration. Additionally, political scientists focus more on voting behaviors in their research than party identification. It's just one of the many factors that makes it difficult to judge the impact of independents in Louisiana, says Ernie Roberson, a Caddo Parish native who became Louisiana's first nationally certified registrar of voters in 1999.
When the National Voter Registration Act was adopted 14 years ago, making it easier for people to become voters through offices of motor vehicles, Web sites, libraries, and other means, many hurriedly signed up and left their party affiliation blank, says Roberson, thus making them an "other" on the rolls. "The biggest surprise we saw in those early years was how many people just didn't pick a mainline party at all," says Roberson, who has served on two federal election task forces. "That's what makes them difficult for candidates to approach. That's why neither of the parties can make headway in getting converts. It's so hard to measure because there's so much we don't know about them."
Furthermore, there are countless studies about registered Democrats and Republicans who consider themselves independents but have never switched over. That comes as heartening news to Michael S. Wolf, secretary of the Louisiana Libertarian Party. Arguably the most active independent party in the state, Libertarians constantly run candidates for statewide office and Congress ' 24 contenders since 2000 ' but they're placing a larger focus on state legislative seats this year. The move could prove to be a boon for the group's grassroots structure.
With more than 2,500 voters on the rolls, Wolf says the Libertarians ' along with the Green and Reform parties, which are also recognized by the state ' offer independent voters a place to call home. It's the surest way independents can unite their voice for a difference to the status quo, although quite a bit of romanticism can be placed in standing firm and being autonomous. "Parties in Louisiana have historically been futile, but that's changing," Wolf says. "Voting has been about relationships and personalities. Everybody had to join a team, but there are alternatives."
Candidates running as independent were allowed to place their party's name near their own on ballots for the first time last year, as long as their party met certain criteria ' at least 1,000 registered voters and a presidential candidate that pulled down 5 percent in a recent statewide election. Many groups, such as the "Independent Party," didn't make the cut when the law took effect in 2005 due to its 30,000 members. Neither did the Black Panther Party or Aerosmith Party, which didn't get many members to walk its way.
For generations, the state's unique open-primary system has encouraged more independent candidates to run. But starting next year, Louisiana will revert to the closed-primary system for congressional races. Whether the two parties will allow independents to vote in their primary is unknown ' they could get shut out. Additionally, Republicans look likely to capture the state House of Representatives, narrowing perspectives ever further, and voter rolls are still in disarray following Katrina and Rita.
Wolf isn't convinced the new primary system will set back non-affiliated voters, but he's holding off judgment until the 2008 election cycle wraps up. Dr. Robert Hogan, a professor of American politics at Louisiana State University, says the independent movement in Louisiana over the past decade can't be ignored, but the next few years may really define the political undercurrent of this state. "The congressional races are changing, the Legislature is in play, and Katrina is still upsetting the applecart," notes Hogan.
Mike Harson's coffers show the advantage of incumbency.
The Lafayette City-Parish Council will vote on an ordinance for final adoption Tuesday that, if approved, would give the city the green light to take over a stretch of Verot School Road from the state Department of Transportation and Development.
The Louisiana Association of Educators filed a lawsuit challenging the $60 million in spending through Louisiana's public school financing formula.
He's been out of office for nearly a decade, but former U.S. Sen. John Breaux is back on the campaign trail, urging voters to support his one-time colleague, Democrat Mary Landrieu.
The unresolved fate of the ashes left behind after Ebola waste was destroyed in Texas highlights the problem U.S. hospitals and communities could face in disposing of their own waste.
While much of the talk was about whether New Orleans could win a big game — or any game, for that matter — on the road, the conversation in the Saints' locker room was about something completely different.
State health officials told thousands of doctors planning to attend a tropical diseases meeting this weekend in New Orleans to stay away if they have been to certain African countries or have had contact with an Ebola patient in the last 21 days.
Republicans are calling on Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu to apologize after she suggested Thursday that President Barack Obama's deep unpopularity in the South is partly tied to race.
Compared to the rest of the country, Lafayette has it pretty good when it comes to the cost and speed of our Internet.
Hello Kitty turns 40; police ambush suspect caught; Knicks surprise Cavs and more national and international news for Friday, October 31, 2014.
Friday's Blogs from the Bog!
The Lafayette City-Parish Council will consider on Tuesday a revised plan to the transform a block in Downtown Lafayette into a mixed-use residential-retail-commercial development that doesn’t include giving title to the property to the Lafayette Public Trust Finance Authority, an arrangement the council rejected earlier this month.
Trying to combat the national undertones of Louisiana's U.S. Senate race, Democratic incumbent Mary Landrieu is traveling the state this week on a sort of pork celebration tour, telling voters about the projects and aid she's delivered to Louisiana.
Ever thought that big, pink Gulf coast shrimp you ordered at the restaurant or bought from the store didn't taste juicy or salty enough? Maybe it wasn't from the Gulf.
The state treasurer won't sign financial documents needed for $200 million in borrowing or for a refinancing of existing debt until he believes they accurately explain the surplus disagreement.
Bill Cassidy voted for 97 percent of the bills signed by Barack Obama.
Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal is joining South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley on her campaign bus tour.
A New Iberia man has been sentenced to life in prison for killing a 4-year-old girl and scalding her 3-year-old brother.
A district judge decided Wednesday against sanctioning attorney/school board candidate Dawn Morris for her behind-the-scenes role in a lawsuit against Mark Cockerham.
Secretary of State Tom Schedler says Gov. Bobby Jindal's administration may have improperly destroyed records in the state employee health insurance program, in the middle of a heavily-criticized rewrite of benefit plans.
Paper cites the former ADA's "experience as a prosecutor, his demonstrated integrity, and his ideas for reshaping the [DA's] office" in urging voters to support Keith Stutes Nov. 4.
Louisiana officials have sent a letter to the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene un-inviting members of the group who have recently been to ebola-affected West African countries from attending the group’s annual conference in New Orleans next week.
Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints have to find a way to win on the road if they plan to take over first place in the NFC South.
"It is obvious that Louisiana economic performance has not outperformed the South or the United States as a whole and, in fact, has substantially underperformed..."
A state district judge said he will rule Friday on a preliminary injunction to keep some charter schools from receiving $60 million through Louisiana's public school financing formula.